Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Obamacare Inconsistancy

The focus of this article is the fact that Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the person responsible for administering Obamacare, doesn't really understand the laws surrounding implementation of this new set of laws. Going by past Obama appointments, and Obama himself, this is not surprising.

What caught my attention though, was this sentence:
Larry Levitt, health insurance expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that in setting the sign-up start date the administration had to balance three competing interests: keeping the enrollment period short enough to prevent people from waiting to see whether they developed a health condition that needed insurance; keeping the period long enough to allow consumers to learn about their options; and allowing enough time to have the sign-up system ready for an onslaught of applications.
I thought that one of the selling points of the deceptively named, Affordable Care Act, was that insurers could no longer discriminate against a person with a pre-existing condition. It seems that while insurers can't, the Obama administration can.

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Saturday, October 05, 2013

Mothers With no Shame

I teach elementary school in an "urban" school district. Yes, the children struggle mightily day after day to learn . . . except for the ones who struggle mightily not to learn. I've learned over the years that if the child is a mess, take a look at the parents, lack of parents, and the poor kid's general home situation. Just because there is an adult living in the home, even if this person gave birth to the child, he or she may not be a parent. Case in point: the other day as parents were in the school picking up their children, I passed by a mother in a black t-shirt. Written on the back of her shirt in big red letters was, "Fuck the Police." Remember, this was inside the school, and there were many children around. No matter how poor a child's reading skills are, there are certain words that they learn to read anyway. I didn't get a look at her face, she was going one way and I was going the other. I don't know who her child is. Based on years of experience, my hypothesis is that her child is not a good student and is possibly resentful and combative. This woman thought nothing of walking through an elementary school wearing clothing featuring foul language. What other deviancies are part of this woman's normal behavior.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gadgets and Education

Friday, we teachers were trained by some nice fellows from our local Barnes and Noble on the proper use and care of their electronic reading device, the Nook. It is a handy little device. You can read books on it, including many that you can download for free since they're in the public domain. You can also electronically highlight passages and take notes. There is a built-in Merriam Webster dictionary that you can call up simply by resting a finger on the word you are having difficulty with. I had no idea these devices had come so far. Not only can you link to the Barnes and Noble website or Amazon to buy books, you can also link to Google and get some of the books for free. You can, I think, surf the web. You can listen to online music. You can play games. There are apps. Some are included. And you can buy lots more.

Wait. Back up. You can play games? Yes, but they're educational games that are either included with the Nook, or that you can download. Well, they might not all be educational. The teacher next to me was playing one of those games where you make objects disappear by aligning a certain amount of the same object and then clicking on it. Of course, our students won't have access to those silly games. They will be trapped into playing reading, and phonics, and math, and grammar, and science games. Right? Well, actually,
It’s elementary. Public education bureaucrats do the darnedest, stupidest things. Clever kids are ready, willing and able to capitalize on that costly stupidity in a heartbeat. Within days of rolling out a $30 million Common Core iPad program in Los Angeles, for example, students had already hacked the supposedly secure devices. The Los Angeles Times reports that the disastrous initiative has been suspended after students from at least three different high schools breached the devices’ security protections. It was a piece of iCake. The young saboteurs gleefully advertised their method to their friends, fellow Twitter and Facebook users, and the media. “Roosevelt students matter-of-factly explained their ingenuity Tuesday outside school,” the L.A. Times told readers. “The trick, they said, was to delete their personal profile information. With the profile deleted, a student was free to surf. Soon they were sending tweets, socializing on Facebook and streaming music through Pandora, they said.” Goodbye, Common Core apps. Hello, Minecraft! The district spent untold millions of taxpayer dollars on iPad “training,” but many teachers still couldn’t figure out how to sync up the souped-up tablets for academic use in the classroom at the start of the school year. In less than a week, though, teens were able to circumvent the locks for fun and playtime at home faster than you can type “LOL.”
The way I see it is, if we teachers are having difficulty in using these things, all we have to do is ask a student for help.

Back when my own kids were in high school, they had to take a computer class. They would come home many a day complaining or laughing over the fact that they completed the teacher's assignment in 10 or 15 minutes and spent the rest of the period playing Solitaire, doing homework for other classes, or just goofing off with their friends. Every kid in the class did the same thing, but these waste-of-time classes were mandated. Every kid in the class had grown up with computers but was being "taught" to do tasks they'd been doing for years. To them, it was a joke.

Since then, computers have advanced. High school computer classes haven't and neither have elementary classes. My students go to their technology class once a week to "learn" on the computers. While not all of them have computers at home, the theory behind teaching children with computers is that they will play educational games. I call it the "Noodle Kidoodle" theory of education.
While various engaging, colorful games have now been used for years, I haven't seen any evidence as to their effectiveness. Of course, that means nothing. The educational establishment is sold on technology, as are parents, as are students, as are the developers of these games and programs.
Remember: These “reform” programs are not about stimulating brain cells. It’s all about stimulating the Benjamins. Pearson is the multibillion-dollar educational publishing and testing conglomerate at the center of the federally driven, taxpayer-funded “standards” racket. For Pearson, ed publishing and ed computing are a $6 billion global business. For nearly a decade, the company has plotted a digital learning takeover. According to industry estimates, Pearson’s digital learning products are used by more than 25 million people in North America. Common Core has been a convenient new catalyst for getting the next generation of consumers hooked. As I reported last week, Pearson sealed its whopping $30 million taxpayer-subsidized deal to supply the city’s schools with 45,000 iPads pre-loaded with Pearson Common Core curriculum apps earlier this summer. I repeat: That works out to $678 per glorified e-textbook, $200 more than the standard cost, with scant evidence that any of this software and hardware will do anything to improve the achievement bottom line.
Somehow, even when there is no money, or less than no money, there is still money to waste - uh - I mean spend on computerized gadgets. And somehow, no matter what kind of corruption and poverty  is being written about, any writer can attack Detroit as the epitome of all that is wrong with this country.
The abysmal history of federal investments in ed technology is as crystal-clear as an HD touch screen. Take President Obama’s $49 million technology initiative for the Detroit public schools, funded by federal stimulus money. The city is bankrupt. The urban school system is overrun by corruption, violence and incompetence. The federal ed tech program showered some 40,000 new (foreign-made) ASUS netbook computers on Detroit, plus thousands of printers, scanners and desktop computers to teachers and kids from early childhood through 12th grade. The district budget is $300 million in the hole. Meanwhile, the board slashed special education buses and shut down 70 schools. Have the devices helped students “compete in a global marketplace,” as champions of the program promised? SAT scores in Detroit remain “stagnant.” High school graduation rates are rock-bottom. According to the most recent data, just 3 percent of Detroit fourth-graders are proficient in math; 6 percent are proficient in reading. In 2010, 11 people were charged in connection with a lucrative fencing scheme involving hundreds of DPS computers, which they stole and sold on eBay or peddled to friends and family.
One of the painful facts of education is that it is not a game. It is as serious as your life. You would think that people who have been in the educational profession for as many years as some of these computer-pushing dolts have been would understand that, but I've come to understand that many of them can't make that admission. In their mind, there has to be a "magic bullet" that will get information and skills into students' brains easily and painlessly. There is no such thing. Education isn't always fun, in fact it may rarely be fun, but it is always rewarding. Yes, games can be good for review, but when it comes to absorbing content, you'd better get out that pencil and paper, along with a book, and get to work. You can play on the internet after you've done your homework.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Islam? - updated

Repeat after me, "It has nothing to do with Islam." "It has nothing to do with Islam." "It has nothing to do with Islam." "It has nothing to do with Islam."
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The Kenyan military remained in a tense standoff with Islamic extremists Sunday, as the toll rose to 59 dead, including children, and 175 wounded in the attack at an upscale mall, a Kenyan minister said. Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from inside the building where hostages are being held by militants. The radicals attacked the mall Saturday and remained inside throughout the night. "The priority is to save as many lives as possible," Joseph Lenku said, reassuring the families of the hostages in the upscale Westgate mall. Kenyan forces have already rescued about 1,000 people, he said. Ten to 15 attackers remain in the mall and Kenyan forces control the security cameras inside the shopping center, Lenku said. Combined military and police forces surrounded the mall in the Westlands neighborhood of Nairobi, which is frequented by foreigners and wealthy Kenyans. Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters at the mall that he has been told officials couldn't determine the exact number of hostages inside the mall. "There are quite a number of people still being held hostage on the third floor and the basement area where the terrorists are still in charge," Odinga said. Somalia's al-Qaida-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack in which they used grenades and assault rifles and specifically targeted non-Muslims.
What about this one?
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A pair of suicide bombers detonated their explosives outside a historic church in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 75 people in the deadliest-ever attack on the country's Christian minority, officials said. A wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing in the city of Peshawar, saying it would continue to target non-Muslims until the United States stopped drone attacks in the country's remote tribal region.
Does it have anything to do with Islam? Silly! Don't be an Islamophobe. Just keep repeating, "It has nothing to do with Islam." "It has nothing to do with Islam." "It has nothing to do with Islam." After all, a comforting lie relaxes us much more than an uncomfortable truth. As General George Casey reminded us after a previous terror attack,
“As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
Kumbaya. And just how did I miss this one?
Official: 143 killed by extremists in Nigeria Published: 09.20.13, 14:03 / Israel News An environmental department official says workers combing bushes have recovered the bodies of at least 143 civilians killed by suspected Islamic militants in northeast Nigeria. Abdulazeez Kolomi told The Associated Press that environmental workers also found some beheaded corpses among victims of a Tuesday night attack on a major highway and Benisheik village some 45 miles (70 kilometers) northeast of the Borno state capital of Maiduguri. (AP)
They are on a roll, aren't they?

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Sunday, October 07, 2012

Score One More for the Jihadists

So the Muslim Brotherhood is controlling Egypt (their reward for murdering Anwar Sadat) and expanding their reach throughout the Middle East. Meanwhile in the Philippines, Islamic terrorism in the service of jihad and a world-wide caliphate is rewarded as the Philippine government, with the blessings of the United States government, surrenders. Of course, we, the unenlightened masses, are supposed to see this in a positive light, as a step toward peace.
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 7, 2012) – The United States on Sunday praised the framework of a peace agreement between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels and vowed to continue supporting the Mindanao peace process. “We welcome the announcement by the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that the two sides finalized a framework peace agreement. While much work remains, successful implementation of this agreement would improve security, stability, and development for the people of Mindanao,” said Ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr. in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner. He said the Washington has long supported peace and stability in Mindanao. “We will continue to look for ways to support the people of Mindanao as they accelerate broad-based and inclusive growth. We fully support the ongoing peace process and hope the parties can continue to avoid violence as they work toward a final resolution that will last for generations and benefit all the people of the Philippines,” Thomas said. Thomas statement came after President Benigno Aquino announced the establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomous region that would expand the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to include the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte province and all villages in the municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite. And also the cities of Cotabato in Maguindanao province and Isabela in Basilan province. (Mindanao Examiner)
Sure, surrender and appeasement, that's the ticket. It always works against Islamic jihad. Well, that is, it works for Islamic jihad. We know that now that they were handed one piece of the Philippines, they will immediately begin a terrorist war to get more - in defense of Islam, and as always, and - you'd better repeat this over and over until it sticks in your unenlightened brain - in the interests of peace. Or as the article says, the "ongoing peace process." I wonder how many "ongoing peace processes" we'll have over the next few years as other governments give up their own fights against their Islamic insurgencies. And how long, how many generations, will the "ongoing peace process" last in the Philippines as the jihadists continue their fight, always blaming the other side for the violence that is sure to continue because that is the business of Islam?

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Whose Side is He On?

Mobs in Egypt and Libya attack our embassies over a movie denigrating Mohammed. In the Libyan attack an American ambassador is murdered. Barack Obama, president of the United States had this to say:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
That's what I wrote this morning. All through the day more information has been shared. Obama and Romney have both made statements. Romney has been roundly condemned by the mainstream media as they continue their eight-year long school girl crush on Obama. Obama, of course, will always get what he wants from them and knows full well he will never have to call them in the morning. They will always worship him, grovel at his feet, and unashamedly lick the sole of his boot. No matter how Obama's worshipers wish it were otherwise, Romney is right. Obama offers the same unrequited love to Islam in its worst form that the MSM offers him. And that is the book he licks. Barry Rubin has an excellent analysis of this sorry situation as Obama continues to embarrass our country and offer better men than himself as human sacrifices to . . . himself and to Islam.
Rather than expose the phony excuse for the demonstration and condemn the Egyptian government’s behavior, the U.S. government groveled. It issued statements in English apologizing for the fact that someone had exercised his right of free speech within its country. The tweets it sent out in Arabic were even worse, pitiful pleas of the we-are-on-your-side-against-this-terrible-Islamophobia variety. And will Egypt’s failure to protect the embassy — because it is on the side of America’s enemies — have any effect on the Obama administration’s helping the Egyptian government get two German submarines (against Israel’s efforts), taking $1 billion off Egypt’s debt, and having a nice meeting with the visiting Egyptian president (while refusing to meet Israel’s prime minister, this supposedly super-pro-Israel president)? You know the answer. Advertisement This is a policy of institutionalized cowardice unprecedented in U.S. history.
Read the whole thing. Later on he says:
After meeting Egypt’s new president, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “I was convinced that President Mursi is his own man,” adding that the new president is committed to democratic reforms and to representing all Egyptians.
It kind of reminds me of when Bush looked into Putin's eyes,
"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. "I was able to get a sense of his soul. "He's a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that's the beginning of a very constructive relationship," Mr Bush said.
If it's true that we get the politicians we deserve, we are in for the roughest ride this country has ever seen.

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Allen West not backing down from calling Dems "communists"

I wish Allen West was my congressman. Of course, Michigan is such a blue state these days, both politically and having the economic blues, he wouldn't stand a chance. And that honesty thing he's got going, forget it. Kwame Kilpatrick's soothing lies are the ticket here. To make it in Michigan, you need at least one foot in the gutter.

If he ever runs for national office though, he will have my support.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Arguing on Facebook

I almost did it this morning, but just as last time when it almost happened, I got up and walked away from the computer. One of my liberal Facebook friends had made another political post. Many of my friends are liberals, and one of my self-imposed rules is to not get into political arguments on Facebook. The only time I break that rule is over Israel. Don't mess with me on Israel. I have spent time on newspaper and magazine comment pages arguing with dopes and hatemongers that I've never met about Israel. I don't always do it, sometimes the comment pages are such cesspools of open Jew-hatred that it's not worth the effort to wade in.

There are Facebook friends who use Facebook as their soapbox for their cause. That's fine. Many of us have a cause. You are welcome to your cause. But when you have over 20 posts per day on your cause, perhaps you should join a group or seek professional help. These are middle-aged adults who should have something better to do with their day. Besides, most of us probably got it within the first five posts. Are you really that dedicated to animal rights that you have to post every petition, and every abuse and rescue story, and every inspirational animal message that you find?

Although I mostly avoid politics, sometimes I will throw up something related to Israel or the occasional Milton Friedman video. If I have a need to expound on a topic in a stupid political rant, I have this blog. Everyone in the world is free to ignore it, and most of humanity is taking advantage of that right.

My kids explained to me how to delete these posts from my daily feed, and I might start deleting a few people. Of course we will still be close pals and true Facebook friends, but I won't have to scroll through multiple posts on "Romney is an idiot", or "you're stupid because you're not an atheist, only an idiot would believe in God", or "Capitalism is the root of all evil and all inequality because we should all be equal." But then, the reason I post Friedman is just to get the goats of the ranters. Mostly, my friends ignore those posts. I don't post very often, but when I do, I hope it's something clever and entertaining. It's "social" media, right? So I try to be social.

I don't post during dinner on the rare occasions when my wife and I are out on a date. I watch other people take photos of their dinner with their phones, and I know what they're doing. I have friends who do that regularly. While not as obnoxious as the political causes, it seems rude to ignore you spouse to do a Facebook post no matter how witty and clever you think you're being. Or maybe I'm too old-fashioned. If the food is really that special, or if I want to boast about the swell joint I took my wife to, then I will talk about it the next day.

But mostly, I'm not going to get drawn into a political argument. If the other person is as obsessive as I am, it could go on for days and waste countless hours. There are other, better ways to waste my time . . . like I said previously - by ranting on my blog.

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Tyranny of "Stuff"

We finally had that yard sale last week, the one we'd been threatening to have for the past two years. As we were clearing off the pool table and lugging all the junk upstairs my wife and I were both struck by how much crap we've accumulated without even trying. I even went through my books and tossed a few dozen outside to be sold.

At that moment, when everything in the house became possible yard sale fodder, I began asking myself if I really need all of these books, many of which I read years ago and have been collecting dust ever since. Some of them I bought in high school and have been moving around with me for years. Chances are I'll never read them again, some of them I'll never even open again. They'd survived past yard sales because they're books that I enjoyed reading at some point, and who knows? I might decide to read them again. But they're still stuff. And when you're looking at all of that stuff on piles on tables, and under tables, and sitting on boxes next to tables, it all becomes junk that isn't ever going back into the house.

 On the other hand, they're books.

So yes, there are still shelves full of books in the house. And there are still boxes full of books in the basement. Those books belong for the most part to my kids, so in theory, one day they will be taken away. Some of them are mine though, and they're still in the basement. Many of them are beautiful children's books that are just too good to dump. Some of them are signed by the authors and/or illustrators. Some of them are remains of my mother's children's book collection, most of which was donated to a local library when she died.

 Before she died I always told myself that whichever books my siblings didn't want, I would pack up and bring home. After she died I started asking myself where I was going to put all those books. So I swiped a few of the good ones, first edition Caldecott winners, signed, or stuff I just liked. I left others with my father, and the rest are now being shared (I hope) with local children.

 I don't think we sold a single book at our sale. I see books at other yard sales, usually their trashy best sellers, diet books, or other things I'm not interested in. There are almost always kid's books. We had kid books and diet books, but I thought the rest of the books, since they weren't trashy best sellers, would sell. I forgot that most people don't think like me. I took the kid books to school, and they will be donated when school starts in September. Our librarian will be so happy with the extra work these books will make for her, I'd better bring her a present.

 We also had clothes, bikes, games, and miscellaneous items. The bikes went quickly. There is a guy, whose house we pass all the time who buys and sells used bikes. They're out on his lawn every weekend.

 We got rid of a bunch of other junk, but there was still a lot left at the end.

 I'd advertised the sale on Craigslist. From that ad, I got an email from Goodwill. I called them Sunday night. They came on Monday and took away all of the leftovers. I appreciate that kind of service.

 As I was looking at the Goodwill receipt it suddenly hit me that it pays more to donate your junk because the tax write off is much higher than the pittance you get from people looking for cheap stuff.

 On the other hand, neighbors come over to visit. You meet new people. And I was able to get a lot of reading done.

 It is now possible to walk in the basement. When I look around the house though, I still see lots of stuff that I'm responsible for. And there is still stuff that I want, mostly music and book stuff. How do I balance wanting my stuff with the knowledge that most of is is just "stuff", and since it's mine, I have to take care of it, keep it clean, make sure it stays usable and all that? How do I keep from coveting more books and music?

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Milton Friedman - The Free Lunch Myth

It would have been Milton Friedman's 100th birthday today. He's still relevant, and for our own good, we'd better listen to him.

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